On February 10, 2023, students and visitors are shown in Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky. [Photo: Sarah Thomas Baldwin / Facebook]
Yet that’s what transpired earlier this week in the small town of Wilmore, Kentucky (population 6,461). All because in that small town is a small Christian university called Asbury, on whose campus a revival broke out at the end of the Wednesday morning chapel two weeks ago right now—a revival of worship and praise, confessions and repentances, singing and praying, with the name of Jesus on the lips of nearly everyone coming and going in that packed auditorium—a non-stop student-led revival that is still continuing around the clock to this very moment.
The Christian world and much of this non-Christian nation have now heard of the Asbury University revival, thanks to the headlines of major news outlets. Twenty thousand visitors showed up this last Sunday, leading to the town’s decision to bar any further outside traffic, so congested has the town become over flocking visitors (from all points on the compass) who want to experience or at least witness this much-heralded revival.
And here we are a few hundred miles to the north, another small Christian university in another small town. What if we’re next on the Holy Spirit’s timetable?
“Oh, but we’re praying for a genuine revival at Andrews!” Who would dare suggest that the #AsburyRevival is anything less than the real deal? Jesus Himself was confronted with that challenge, when the Pharisees sallied up to Him on that Palm Sunday donkey ride through the jumping, whooping, and hollering, hosannaing praise-raisers who lined the palm-branch strewn road down Olivet and toward the Holy City: “‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ ‘I tell you,’ He replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’” (Luke 19:39-40). And when some of the youth of that crowds apparently went overboard the very next morning when Jesus entered the temple, and the same grumpy clerics accosted Him over all this ruckus, Jesus’ terse reply is worth remembering: “‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked Him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants You, Lord, have called forth your praise”?’” (Matthew 20:16). Apparently exuberant praise and loud exclamations of worship from the young are not antithetical to our Lord’s definition of revival, now are they?
A couple of Mondays ago I had five undergrad college students sitting in my office, earnestly appealing to me: “We are greatly concerned with the declining spiritual condition of the students at Andrews University.” That's the opening line of a three-page paper these young Adventist students articulately crafted and shared with me. An unfair charge? I don’t think so. Oh yes, there are many young disciples of Jesus who are unabashed in their public and private loyalty to Him on this campus. But over the recent months, I have sensed a deepening chasm between the sold-out-for-Jesus students and those who seem (at least to outward appearances) to be overtly detached from spiritual life on this campus. (The next time you attend chapel, note the decorum in the back half of the sanctuary—or drop by any spiritual gathering and wonder where the students are.)
Shall we despair? Not at all! But we cannot sit by and assume a Christian Adventist campus is immune to bold, frontal efforts by the enemy of our souls to turn this safe haven for Jesus into a battleground for Satan’s dark offensive strategy, a deadly modus operandi crafted to snare an entire generation into his camp. Rather than wringing our hands or complaining to each other, we must unitedly join forces in what Timothy Keller calls “extraordinary prayer.” In a February 5, 2023, piece he wrote for Atlantic magazine, “American Christianity Is Due for a Revival,” Keller notes: “All religions promote and call for prayer. But historically, during times of fast growth and renewal, Christian movements have been marked by an extraordinary amount of communal prayer. . . . Unions of believers for prayer—both large and small gatherings—have an empowering effect. The renewed growth of the Church in the U.S. will not happen without it” (www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/02/christianity-secularization-america-renewal-modernity/672948/).
To read the full message: https://pmchurch.org/blog/2023/02/22/revival
Dwight Nelson pastors the Pioneer Memorial Church in Berrien Springs, Michigan.